Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Best Footprint Online is Often The One Never Created

Working online these past few years almost exclusively has given me a great deal of experience in the power of online footprints. Those things you do online that others can see, which happens to be virtually anything you do online. Comment on a forum post, argue with someone over a Facebook page, or celebrate a birthday on Twitter, it all shows up if searched correctly. Good or bad, it all shows up, because Google has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, it's a computer based algorithm, not exactly a set of warm open arms to fall into at night. Google is indifferent to your issues.

In Strange Business I write about the satellites that are always aware of where we are, and more importantly, what we are saying. While the Internet has the capability for being constantly aware of where we are on this earth through things like IP addresses, GPS locators, and our own admissions, that leaves us basically helpless in hiding ourselves for long, we do have a choice about what we say online.

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. If you are attacked online, your gut reaction is to defend yourself, just as if you were attacked in your home, you'd grab the first thing you could to knock the intruder over the head. Should you not be reaching for the digital table lamp or the virtual gun in the lockbox when attacked online?

I argue no. In fact, the less you say sometimes the better the result. As you deal with issues over the years online like yours truly has, you realize that often keeping quiet is the best remedy to the problem at hand. I could go into a lengthy explanation of why this is the case, but I'd rather spare you the specifics, just apply your own circumstances to this theory and see if it doesn't end up making a whole bunch of sense.

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